Looking Towards 2013…

Well today is the last day of 2012. Can you believe how fast this year has gone by? At the end of 2011 I told myself I really needed to concentrate on my business and work harder. I think I have done some things to better my business, but I did not fully accomplish everything. I think if you run your own business you always feel this way. I am in no way disappointed in 2012, I believe it was a big step in the right direction and I have positive thoughts going into 2013. I am not going to call these resolutions, but things I plan on working on in 2013.

Productivity – I think it happens to everyone, but sometimes I literally sit in front of my computer and get nothing done. I made an effort this year to start working smarter and I need to continue to do that in 2013. Also if I am not doing work I need to walk away from the computer and do something else.

Getting Ahead – The way ThinkComputers works I try to stay ahead. It is so stressful to be writing the review the same day as it needs to be posted. Towards the end of the year I’ve got behind and I am only 1 day ahead, which is still stressful. My goal would be to be a week ahead of content, let’s hope I can maintain that in 2013.

Blog More – Sometimes I forget about this blog, but it really is a great outlet for me to talk about what is on my mind. It also serves as a personal journal and something I can look back on from time to time. So in 2013 I want to keep up with this blog

Be More Active – I can’t even tell you the last time I was at the gym. I go running, but that is not enough. Once I get ahead on my work I really plan on working out much more.

Learn More – This year I really did not learn too much. There are some things that I could learn to better my business like SEO and a better understanding of online marketing etc. I really want to dedicate some time to learning things that will better my business.

A Guide to Surviving the Consumer Electronics Show

ces-logo

As the year comes to an end that means the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is right around the corner. I’ve been going to CES since 2006 and I have learned quite a lot since that first trip where I was totally clueless. This guide should help you survive CES even if you have attended the show before.

Make use of the Monorail – This is one of the most useful things during CES. The Las Vegas monorail will take you from most of the hotels on the strip to the convention center…in 6 minutes. No taxi is going to get you there faster than that, hell you will most likely wait in a taxi line longer than that. A 3-day pass for the monorail is around $30-40, you could easily spend more than that per day on taxi’s. My first year I spent close to $300 on taxi’s just the first 2 days of CES!

Wear comfortable shoes – CES is the largest trade show in North America, which means there is going to be a lot to see. This means you are going to be doing a lot of walking. Make sure you have comfortable shoes or you are going to end up with blisters on your feet. This has happened to me quite a few times.

Make sure your room has a fridge – Most hotels will give you a free mini-fridge if you request one. This will allow you to store drinks etc. You don’t want to have to leave your hotel late at night to go get a cold drink. This just gives you easy access.

Find out where companies are located before you schedule your meetings – The Las Vegas convention center is HUGE! Before you schedule your meetings find out where the company you will be meeting with is located. You don’t want to have to walk across the entire convention center 10 times for different meetings. Also many companies are setup in hotels so schedule accordingly.

Take advantage of the free lunch / dinners – If you are a member of the press you are provided with a free lunch each day of CES, take advantage of it! CES is a busy week and you can forget about eating because there is so much going on. Without food your body is going to shut down and you don’t want that to happen during CES. Many of the events have free food as well.

Attend the Parties – There are normally 3-4 parties a night during CES. Even if you are tired I suggest attending them. First because they are the best networking events and second because they will allow you to wind down at the end of the day.

I hope this guide helps you survive CES and if you will be in Vegas in January let me know!

25 Things I’m Thankful for in 2012

With 2012 winding down I have been taking a look back on the year and I have realized I really do have a lot to be thankful for. I’ve had some great experiences, met some amazing people and even learned a few things. Looking back there are some things and people that made my year pretty awesome. So here is my list of 25 things I’m thankful for in 2012 in no particular order.

1. Family – Sometimes you don’t realize how important family is till you need them and my family has always supported me in what I’ve done.

2. WordPress – All of my websites are based on WordPress. Since I really do not code that much wordpress makes it much easier to setup a website or even a business in less than an hour!

3. Nik – My friend Nik and I have been hanging out a lot lately. He is a great person to bounce ideas off of and he has been reviewing gaming peripherals for ThinkComputers this year. People really enjoy his take on gaming accessories.

4. Instagram – Before there was instagram I had to post photos on twitter and facebook separately and that was just annoying. Instagram makes things so much easier and is an awesome app. I know all of you love my #foodporn photos!

5. The ThinkComputers Community – I really made an effort this year to build a community around ThinkComputers. Whether it was on twitter, facebook, youtube or even on the ThinkComputers Forums. I want to thank everyone that has become part of the ThinkComputers community.

6. StartUpTown – I spent a good amount of time at StartUpTown this year. It is a great place to work from and the people there are just awesome.

7. Spotify – All the music I want anywhere? Since Spotify launched in the US I have been hooked!

8. Haeley, Katie, Kimmi – These girls have simply been awesome. We all have become so close over this past year and we always have so much fun together!

9. Mailchimp – I finally moved away from dadamail and signed up for Mailchimp. It is a great way to manage an e-mail list / newsletter and has just made things so much easier for me.

10. Adam Werkmeister – My buddy Adam was nice enough to invite me to go on vacation with him this past year. The vacation was just what I needed and was the perfect motivation to finish out the year strong.

11. Payday The Heist – If there was one video game I played the most this year it had to be Payday The Heist. It is a blast I mean what can’t you like about robbing banks?

12. Schenley Park – I love living right by Schenley Park. Whether it is to exercise or just go for a walk its a great place to go and get my mind off work.

13. Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy – This has to be my favorite beer. It is the perfect summer beer and I order it pretty much everywhere I go during the summer!

14. Travel Blogs – After my vacation I really got into travel blogs, more specifically digital nomad blogs. Some of the ones I really enjoy are: Making It Anywhere, Location 180, Never-Ending Footsteps, & Legal Nomads.

15. Audio Books – Another thing I discovered on vacation was audio books. I think this is the best way to digest information and “read” a book. Nothing is more relaxing than sitting on a beach and listening to an audio book.

16. HootSuite – If you manage more than one social media profile Hootsuite is what you need to be using! It is completely web-based and you can manage Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and even Linkedin profiles. The best feature is the ability to schedule posts.

17. Nakama – You will normally find me here on Monday nights having a late dinner with friends. Amazing sushi and great bartenders, if you want good Japanese food in Pittsburgh this is where you need to go.

18. John Chow – One of my good friends and someone I can always count on for business advice.

19. Pho – Simply one of my favorite foods. Nothing is better than a nice large bowl of warm pho! If im not feeling well or just want to feel refreshed pho is the perfect thing!

20. ThemeForest & VideoHive – I am in no way a designer, actually I’m horrible at those things. ThemeForest is a great place to find quality wordpress / website themes. VideoHive is just like the same thing, but for video. That is where I got the intro for ThinkComputers videos.

21. Google Docs – I’m not sure how I survived before without Google Docs. Whether I am writing something, or using the form function for a contest Google Docs is awesome. Oh yeah and you can access all of your files anywhere there is an internet connection.

22. Panera Bread – There are really not a whole lot of places in Pittsburgh where you can get good food and work on your laptop for an afternoon. Panera Bread is normally the place I go when I need to get out of my home office and work.

23. Dropbox – Dropbox is the easiest way to share files. I use it for both personal and business applications and I love that I can access my important files wherever there is an internet connection.

24. My Health – While I am not in the best shape of my life, things could be a lot worse. Being healthy is something many people take for granted so I am happy that I am healthy.

25. Great Friends & Good Times – At the end of a long work day nothing is better than going out and spending time with friends. It just allows you to forget about all the stress of work. To all of my friends thanks for being so awesome in 2012!

I could add much more to this list, but I don’t want to go on and on. What were you thankful for in 2012?

Where Did November Go?

Seriously is it already December? Only 1 blog post last month…I am definitely not that happy about that. So what’s the deal? Well to put it simply I have been overworked, stressed and just plain busy. Although I cannot make excuses, I haven’t been working as smart and effective as I should be either.

First off this is the busy time of the year for ThinkComputers. Companies are releasing products for the holiday season so we have a lot of products in to review. I am still doing 95% of the reviews on ThinkComputers, sometimes I think I will never find enough good and reliable staff members to really contribute so I don’t have to write 3-4 reviews a week myself. So between writing the reviews, doing the unboxing videos and doing pretty much everything else for the site I am pretty busy.

Talking about writing I am having a hard time really concentrating. It’s amazing when I am in the zone and I can pump out reviews one after another. I’m not sure if I need a change on scenery or what, but this is not a good thing. I think with everything going on I am just stressing too much and I can’t really relax to get into that writing mood.

Another thing with concentrating is that I am not being effective at all. Many days I have not been making a to-do list so I sit at my computer and complete easy tasks that really are not that important. I should be getting the high priority tasks done, but I am guilty of being lazy. I really need to stick to a firm schedule and stop being lazy.

For a good while now I was doing really good. I would be pretty productive during the day and before I would go to bed I would sit on my laptop and read travel blogs, sort of like my sanctuary. I could forget about work and think about traveling to Thailand or somewhere else. Now by the end of the day I am just exhausted and want to pass out.

So why am I telling you this? Well one I knew I needed to write a blog post and two I think it is good to write about it. That way I am able to define the problem and solve it. Also I wanted to give everyone a little update, hopefully you won’t have to wait another month for another one!

So You Think it is Easy to Run an Online Business?

It’s crazy to think I have been running ThinkComputers for 10 years, but I have.  Over this time many people have said to me, “man your job must be easy”.  At the same time just as many people have said, “I wish I could do what you do”.  The truth is anyone can do what I do, but they make the mistake of thinking that it is easy and that it is not a real “job”.  I have given so many people advice and more or less a blueprint to do exactly what I do, yet they give up because they realize it is not as easy as they think and it actually requires real work.  Keep in mind I never decided to make ThinkComputers my full time job because I thought it would be easy.  I did it because I wanted to do my own thing and hey it’s nice to work in your boxers!  So if you are thinking about starting your own online business here are some things you may want to consider.

You are your own boss
This seems like a great thing right?  No one telling you what to do, being able to make your own schedule etc.  The thing you don’t realize is being your own boss is a hard thing to do from time to time.  Because technically no one is holding you accountable.  So if you sleep in, don’t work for a day, sit and watch YouTube for hours etc you cannot get in trouble as you are the boss.  This makes it very easy to be lazy.  I try to wake up at the same time each day, but when you technically don’t have to be up for anything it is really hard to drag yourself out of bed.  Being your own boss also means you need to have your day planned out with tasks.  If you do not you will just sit around and become “busy” but not productive.  These are just a few things that are not that great about being your own boss, the list can go on and on.

Working for Free
Wait what?  When you are building website or product you are technically working for free.  No one is paying you to develop the product or website.  If you are selling a product you are only going to get paid when you get orders.  When it comes to websites and ads for the most part unless you already have a website that has good traffic and a following no one is going to pay you upfront for advertising.  You will have to go with a 3rd party service like Google Adsense, which means you will not get paid for at least a month if not more.  Google Adsense like many advertising services require you to have a minimum balance (usually $100) before they will cut you a check.  So you will need to wait until you reach that amount.  To make matters worse a lot of advertising companies work on anywhere from a 30 to 60 day net payment.  That means if I made $500 in November I will not see that money for 30 to 60 days (whatever the net payment is) starting from December 1st.  This means you really have to manage your cash flow.  It can be annoying because if you have an awesome month it’s not like you can go celebrate because you don’t see that money for at least a month if not more!

Unsure of Income
One of the most stressful things about doing what I do is not knowing how much money I will be making each month.  When you are working for a company you normally know how much your check will be on the 15th and 30th.  If you are selling a product online you have no clue how many orders you will be getting each month.  If you rely on advertising then unless you are charging a flat rate you have no clue how much you will make.  That all depends on traffic, how many people click the ad etc.  If your site goes down in the middle of the night and ads do not display you are technically losing money, which you will definitely notice at the end of the month.

Always something to do
If you happen to follow me on twitter you may have seen me post the hashtag #nodaysoff, because in this business there really are no days off.  Well I mean there are, but there is always something you can be doing.  People think its crazy that I work on my birthday, on holidays and even on vacation, but I’ve done it all.  Whether its doing website optimizations to make your site load faster, finishing up an article, sending an e-mail to a potential advertiser or finishing odds and end on my birthday so I only have to work 2 hours the next day its all work that needs to be done.  Your website and online business is something that you will always be improving so if you want it to last there is always work to be done at all times.  Now just because you can work does not mean you should work, but that whole concept is for a future post.

These are just a few reasons why running your own online business is not easy and can be extremely stressful.  Does this make you want to change your mind about starting your own online business?  I really hope not.  The decision to run ThinkComputers full time has been one of the best decisions of my life.  When I see 80% of my friends who hate their job and are stuck in an office from 9-5 I know that I have made the right decision.

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